Saturday, September 7, 2013

Neptune Beach Community Celebration

     If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll notice I give a lot of space to Alameda.  As an Alameda resident, I may be biased.  But anyone who’s been to “The Island” will agree that Alameda is special.  Quiet, laid back, family and pet friendly, filled with trees and lush parks, right next to the Bay with views of San Francisco on clear days…Alameda is a gem and a close getaway for frazzled city dwellers.  It’s also a city rich in history, and the Neptune Beach Community Celebration is an event that means to honor and cherish that history.
     This is the second year for the celebration, and it takes place on one of Alameda’s most popular streets, Webster.  This is where the Alameda Farmer’s Market operates on Tuesdays and Saturdays (just off Webster on Haight), where you can find the wonderful Alameda Sports Cards and Comics shop, where you can get a delicious sandwich from Domenicos Italian Deli, and where you can get a classy meal from CafĂ© Jolie or Croll’s.
     In the early 1900’s, the area at the end of Webster was also home to an amusement park called Neptune Beach.  Before the Bay Bridge was finished, visitors could get to this amusement park via rail and enjoy its swimming pools, carousel, and Ferris wheel.  Vacationers could also rent one of Neptune Beach’s bath cottages.  People came to Neptune Beach to picnic, barbecue, dance, and forget about city life.  The park closed in 1939, and the area became known as Crab Cove and Crown Memorial State Beach.  Today, residents and visitors can still enjoy large, green parks and beautiful beaches.
     The Neptune Beach Celebration is a way for residents and visitors to show appreciation for the natural gifts Alameda provides but also the history and current community that makes this city a great place to live.  I attended this event on Saturday, and there were a lot of things to do and see.  A large bandstand set up where Webster meets Central hosted many bands and a variety of music throughout the day.  I hummed along to songs like "Home" while browsing booths selling jewelry, wall hangings, garden decorations, clothing, and more. 
     For the adventurous spirit, there was a rock climbing wall.  For families, there were many different bounce houses, a Ferris wheel, a giant slide, and even real pony rides.  This is definitely an event that makes you wish you were a kid again.  And the Crab Cove Visitor’s Center had a booth where children (and curious adults) could learn about and explore the plants and animals found along Alameda’s shoreline.
     If you missed the event on Saturday, September 7th, you can still make it on Sunday, September 8th, from 10 am to 5pm.  Don’t miss out on the history walk with local historians Eric Kos and Dennis Evanosky from 11 am to noon.  They’re sure to give you tidbits you can impress friends with over drinks or dinner.
     I must warn you that in comparison to other festivals in the Bay Area, the Neptune Beach Community Celebration is pretty small.  To make the most of this event, I suggest riding your bike to it via one of the many scenic pathways along the Bay.  You can park your bike in a supervised bike lot set up at US Bank on Webster.  This is also an event that families with children might appreciate the most.  There are a lot of activities for children, and the area is safe and quiet.  Be prepared to talk to residents and other visitors because this is definitely a friendly, talkative place.
     I have to admit I wasn’t impressed by the food vendor selection.  There were three or four food booths, most boasting BBQ and deep fry.  If this doesn’t sound appealing, there are many delicious restaurants on Webster, and most were offering special deals in honor of the event.  There was an excellent shaved ice shack, Hula Hawaiian Shave Ice, where you can mix flavors, add ice cream, and even get a topping of condensed cream.  You can visit the event’s website to learn more about its features and watch historical videos:
     My personal recommendation would be to have a picnic over in Washington Park in honor of Neptune Beach’s spirit.  There are also barbecue pits in this park, a playground and basketball court, tennis courts, and the best dog park in the whole Bay Area.  After your picnic, you could go enjoy the beach, where you can see views of San Francisco, watch windsurfers, and play beach volleyball.
     If shopping is your sole pleasure at festivals, the Neptune Beach Community Celebration might not fully satisfy you.  However, if you are the type who likes to enjoy the outdoors or if you need a break from the hustle and bustle, this is a perfect event for you.  This is a place where you can kick off your shoes, lay back, and just enjoy being a member of the Bay Area.

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